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When Dreams and Stones (Sny i kamienie) first appeared in 1995, it was immediately hailed as one of the most brilliant contributions to the literature of Central and Eastern Europe since the fall of communism, winning the prestigious Koscielski Foundation Prize in Poland. The novel/prose poem's haunting lyricism truly breaks new literary ground, and comparisons have been made between her work and the stories of Bruno Schulz.
Tulli tells the story of the growth of a great city. Though never spelled out in the narrative, she is writing about Warsaw. The entire city was rebuilt after its complete destruction in World War II; Tulli relates this history by entering the lives of the stones from which the buildings and monuments are constructed, as well as inhabiting the dreams of people and objects interwoven within the city's history. Tulli reveals the inner lives of edifices, mirrors, and newspaper photographs, while she explores the design of the city, its growth and its workings. Is it a living organism or is it a highly complex piece of machinery? Tulli dismantles the city piece by piece to reveal a very different metaphysical landscape lying, literally, beneath and around.
Dreams and Stones, by the Polish writer Magdalena Tulli, is a postmodernist masterpiece of lyrical prose that defies generic definition and is rife with paradox and metaphor."
—Kirsten Lodge, Slavic and East European Journal
A beautifully flowing translation. Johnston aptly captures the dreamy as well as the stark quality of the original."
Powerful imagery caught in a sinewy, architectural, elegiac prose. An inner-outer dance of cityscape with the taut emotion, terror & psyche of the 'human'. Where are we? What magical zone of dream and stone? We are inhabitants of the wild, brilliant imagination of Magdalena Tulli. This book is a great pleasure to read: deeply provocative, intuitive, haunting. 'I hunt among stones' was Charles Olson's probing line, a mission manifested here with full beauty & finesse. And rendered from Polish to English in an inspired translation by Bill Johnston."
Dreams and Stones is a startling, beautiful, powerful achievement. It calls the conventional genres of literature into question as its central image and metaphor, 'the tree of the world', grows, spreads and deepens. It does away with the persistent superstition of humanity's distinction from 'nature'. The originality of the writing is not lessened by representing a family tree that includes Michaud, Kafka, Calvino, and Saramago. It is a work to welcome and return to, and the translation is vibrant and graceful."